Inspiration: Steven Hagan

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This weekend I had the opportunity to visit an old friend and fellow artist, Steve Hagan. He was exhibiting his hand-blown glass works at the Philadelphia Buyers Market of American Craft, a wholesale trade show for fine American-made crafts. The show sprawled across an entire floor of the Philadelphia Convention Center and was filled with beautiful jewelry, fashion, ceramics, glass and more.  This year there were 160 new artists exhibiting their work – brave souls ready to begin or expand their small creative businesses – including Steve, whose work is truly exceptional.

Steven Hagan in the hot shop

Steve Hagan in the hot shop

I met Steve in the hot shop at Temple University’s Tyler School of Fine Art during a summer workshop in 1999.  I was home for the summer and weaseled my way into the class to experiment with a process that was completely foreign and fascinating. I quickly realized that I’d never have the coordination, strength, or patience for the media, though I am still mezmerized by it.  Steve, on the other hand, was a natural born glass blower – he was “bitten by the bug,” as he likes to say, early in his career and has never looked back.  His skill and dedication to the craft are truly amazing.

Ingredients for Life, Steven Hagan

Ingredients for Life, Steve Hagan

We became fast friends, and I soon realized that Steve loves food just as much (maybe more) than glass. Making functional vessels with beauty that equals the food they contain is a no-brainer for him.  There is such an elegance in the marriage of his passions.

Transparent Bowls, Steve Hagan

Transparent Bowls, Steve Hagan

Wobbly Goblets, Steve Hagan

Wobbly Goblets, Steve Hagan

It’s no surprise that his most recent projects make the hot shop into a garden where the most luscious, if inedible, fruits and vegetables are created.

Fruit Bowl, Steve Hagan

Fruit Bowl, Steve Hagan

I’m also crazy over his little glass fortune cookies:

Fortune Cookies, Steve Hagan

Fortune Cookies, Steve Hagan

And, his pint glasses made to look like they’re already filled with Guinness, Black & Tan, and Amber ales:

Pint Glasses, Steve Hagan

Pint Glasses, Steve Hagan

The craftsmanship and clarity of content in Steve’s work is a testament to the kind of skill that comes from practice, focus, and true love.  He makes it look so easy with the simplicy and clean lines in his forms.  Having faced the molten material myself, I can attest to the fact that it most certainly is not.

To see more of Steve’s work visit his website here.

Inspiration: Joseph Bottari

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My husband and I met Jospeph Bottari about a year ago.  He was working to open a contemporary art gallery in Lambertville, NJ – a town known for its antiques, Victorian architecture, and traditional cultural offerings (in other words, the antithesis of contemporary art).  My first impression of Joseph: a whirlwind of energy, ideas, and ambition – a refreshing addition to the local landscape.

Crayola Spectrum in Suspension, Joseph Bottari

Crayola Spectrum in Suspension, Joseph Bottari

In just one year, I’ve seen his work progress in remarkable ways. With roots in street culture and skateboarding, his early work riffs on graffiti graphics, using bold colors and letterforms.

DiGiEQS, Joseph Bottari

DiGiEQS, Joseph Bottari

As he’s gotten more interested in art worlds beyond the street (i.e. the gallery art world), he’s developed several new bodies of work influenced by abstract expressionism and pop. Clearly drawn to a bold, saturated palette and open to experimentation, here are some of Joseph’s newer paintings:

Striking the Chord No.1, Joseph Bottari

Striking the Chord No.1, Joseph Bottari

Union Jack Nautical, Joseph Bottari

Union Jack Nautical, Joseph Bottari

Most recently, Joseph has taken what he’s learned from the gallery world and combined it with his street roots to launch the DOPE project – a contemporary take on Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE graphic.  He’s making prints, pendants and wheat-paste signs in eye-popping colors.  They are truly dope.

Dope Stencil in-progress, Joseph Bottari

Dope Stencil in-progress, Joseph Bottari

Dope Stencil in-progress, Joseph Bottari

Dope Poster in-progress, Joseph Bottari

Dope Pendant, Joseph Bottari

Dope Pendant, Joseph Bottari

You can buy his pendants here.  Or, visit his studio / gallery at 202 North Union Street, Lambertville and meet Joseph in person.

Inspiration: Emma Skurnick

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This is the first of my “inspiration” posts – a homage to the people, places, events and works that have shaped my perspective and aesthetic, not just as an artist, but as a human being on this beautiful planet.  I’m starting off with Emma Skurnick’s carefully observed and rendered illustrations of the natural world.

I met Emma in 2001 in Bynum, North Carolina, while working for the Haw River Assembly.  She is warm and softspoken with a deep love for nature.  She produces fine art & murals, creates scientific illustrations, and teaches out of her home / studio in a tiny river town in North Carolina’s Piedmont that’s sometimes referred to as “dog heaven” by locals. Her work has been commissioned by American Scientist Magazine, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, the North Carolina Aquariums, and several publishing companies. In her artist statement, she writes:

By making modest animals large – by painting a toad or songbird three feet tall – perhaps I can startle people into appreciating the world we tend to pass by. By isolating the fox or the lily against a simple white background, perhaps I can allow us to see some of what we miss as we speed along. And by granting these creatures a bit of personality and humor, maybe I can convince a viewer to slow down and consider the beings with whom we share our space.

Her self portrait, which I’ve always admired, illuminates her connection to the earth:

Self Portrait, Emma Skurnick

Self Portrait, Emma Skurnick

I think we could all stand to consider this connection a bit more, and work to nurture it in our own lives.  Thank you, Emma, for setting an example of how to be quiet, how to really look and, in the process, more fully appreciate nature’s gifts.

Hammer Tulip, Emma Skurnick

Hammer Tulip, Emma Skurnick

Visit her website to see more…

Studio Tunes

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I have been over the moon for Carsie Blanton ever since I saw her play at the Tin Angel in Philadelphia’s Old City about 7 or 8 years ago. She opened for Jeffrey Gaines, who was unfortunately not worth seeing (his cover of Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” is his only claim to fame for good reason), but the show was redeemed by the fact that this itty-bitty cute-as-a-button curly mop-haired girl played a rockin’ folk and jazz inspired set to kick things off.

Carsie Blanton

Carsie Blanton

I accidentally saw her again in Charlottesville, VA at a downtown bookstore / music venue whose name escapes me – she opened for Devon Sproule. Although Sproule was infinitely more satisfying than Gaines, I was still more impressed with the quirky sprite whose music is spellbinding both lyrically and rhythmically.  I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to actually buy one of her albums.  About three weeks ago, I FINALLY bought her recent release, Idiot Heart (2012), and I can’t stop listening to it:

Carsie Blanton's Idiot Heart album cover

Carsie Blanton‘s Idiot Heart album cover

This album is all about love, missed chances, questionable choices – the human experience.  My husband would probably say it’s chick music, but what does he know?!  My favorite track is “Backbone” – how can you not love the chorus:

show me something I can rely on
or I would rather be alone
you give your heart but I wanna see your
backbone
 

You can buy / listen to it here. Best studio music EVER.

Real Weddings: Rachel and Dean

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Last summer I had a chance to make several custom ketubot.  One of the most memorable was for Rachel and Dean Laster, co-founders of In Bliss Weddings.  I met Rachel at a truly spectacular bridal expo that she and Dean put together at the Montclair Art Museum last spring to kick off their In Bliss web launch.  A few months later, she contacted me to share her vision for a custom papercut ketubah that would complement their Parisian wedding theme – Laduree, the famous makers of adorable little pastel-colored macarons.  My mouth waters just thinking about it.

Photo by weddinglight

photo by WeddingLight

Over the course of several weeks, we worked together to create a design that incorporated the pastel colors and riffed on the packaging design of Laduree with the couple’s silhouettes as a centerpiece.  Here are some images of the final product:

Custom Laduree Ketubah

custom laduree ketubah

Custom Laduree Ketubah detail

custom laduree ketubah detail

Rachel gave me permission to share a few of her wedding photos, by WeddingLight, to put the work in context:

Rachel and Dean in Paris

Rachel and Dean in Paris

Rachel & Dean's Ceremony at the Shangri-La Paris Hotel

Rachel & Dean’s intimate ceremony at the Shangri-La Paris Hotel

Under the tallis and drinking...

under the tallis and drinking…

Invitations by Kristine Lombardi (Illustration) & Paper on Pine (Printing & Assembly)

invitations by Kristine Lombardi (Illustration) & Paper on Pine (Printing)

Signatures on the Ketubah

signatures on the ketubah

Rachel and Dean are clearly excellent planners (after all, they chose me!), and their passion for love and weddings really shows – not only in their own wedding, but also on their website.  If you’re planning a wedding and looking for vendors in your area, check it out here (www.inblissweddings.com).

Longing for the Shad of Spring

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I realize that here in the Northeast we’ve been having a very mild winter (with the not so small exception of Superstorm Sandy), but still, I am eagerly anticipating the onset of spring.  It seems that January always finds me daydreaming about tulips and t-shirts.  So, I guess I’ll begin my 2013 blogging with a homage to a warmer time…

In the little city of Lambertville where I live, we have a very distinct way to celebrate the season’s change.  Being located on the Delaware River (which I can almost see – if it weren’t for all those trees – out my 2nd floor kitchen window), we witness the mass spawning of American Shad every year at April’s end.  I must not be the only one who delights in this telling symbol of spring because the streets fill up with people reveling in Shadfest – a street fair to honor our fishy friends and the passing of another winter.  There are food vendors, arts and crafts displays, beer tastings at the local brewery, and even a rubber duck race down the canal.  And, because Lambertville is a rather artistic place, there is also a Shadfest poster exhibition and auction with donations of original works by local folks.

Last year I participated in this project – all proceeds from the auction go to undergraduate art scholarships for students from local high schools pursuing careers in the visual arts.  Here are some images of my submission…

I drew a quirky little line drawing of my house:Image

Then I spent some time cutting it out of paper:

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And here is the final product:

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I had so much fun making this house portrait.  Writing about it now, I’m inspired to make a series of house portraits in various architectural styles.  Look out for a future post along these lines…

The Sunflowers of Summer & The Spirit of Community

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Last week an old friend contacted me about making a Simchat Habat (Jewish naming ceremony) certificate for his 1-year-old granddaughter. I jumped at the opportunity to create something new and partipate in this special event. The baby’s name is Summer, which immediately brought to mind golden light and sunflowers. Here are some photos of the finished certificate:

ImageImageImage

I was graciously invited to attend the ceremony, which was the most rewarding piece of this creative adventure. Stuffed into a living room filled with family and friends, several of whom held a tallis overhead while blessings were recited, I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. I’ve always wanted to make art in the spirit of community, and this event showed me that I am closer than ever to reaching my goal.

Love by Leya Launch

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This is what the beginning looks like…the back end is a whirlwind of details, a rollercoaster of emotions, a world full of dreams and doubts.  Only a select few get to see this process, which is not for the weak or the weary because starting a business isn’t always pretty.  Luckily, my support team stayed strong when I was weak, provided brilliant advice, technical expertise, and lots of love.  I’d like to send special thanks to my parents, my fiance, Darren McManus, my web developer, John Morfis, and the folks I work with at the Lawrence Art & Frame Gallery.  I’m sure I’ll be leaning on them lots more as Love by Leya grows.

The front end looks like this:

Love by Leya‘s brand new home page

and this…

True Love Birds / Tree ketubah design, photo by Amy Stevens

and this…

Love by Leya at Borrowed, photos by Jillian McGrath Photography

and this…

Love by Leya on Etsy

So, I guess this is for real.  Thanks for joining me on my journey.  I’ll be using this blog as a place to post inspirations, projects, art…things that I love.  If you follow along, you might find some things that you love, too.

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